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Qobuz’s experts gather all the essentials of each genre. These albums have marked music history and become major landmarks.

With the Ideal Discography you (re)discover legendary recordings, all whilst building on your musical knowledge.

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Soul - Released February 22, 2019 | Rhino

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
A guitarist worshipped by Jimi Hendrix, an insanely good falsetto singer that even Prince looked up to, an author heavily involved in the American civil rights movement and a top-tier songwriter: Curtis Mayfield was a man of many talents. His groovy symphonies helped form solid links between funk, jazz, blues, soul and traditional gospel. After making his name with The Impressions in the 60s, he embarked on a solo career in 1970. This box set named Keep On Keeping On contains the singer’s first four studio albums, each remastered in Hi-Res 24-Bit quality: Curtis (1970), Roots (1971), Back to the World (1973) and Sweet Exorcist (1974). Here, the rhythm'n'blues enjoy a second life, supported by a wah-wah guitar, careful percussion and an always airy string section. Every topic concerned is a mini-tragedy, socially engaged, anchored in traditional gospel music. The masterful arranging of these albums (especially his masterpiece Curtis, and Roots) can be considered rivals to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. It is worth mentioning that this 1970-1974 box set does not include the soundtrack to Superfly, Gordon Parks Jr.’s 1972 film which contains the singles Pusherman and Freddie’s Dead. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Soul - Released March 21, 2018 | Epic - Legacy

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Soul - Released August 1, 1971 | Stax

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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released August 21, 2015 | Epic - Legacy

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Soul - Released June 1, 2015 | Rhino Atlantic

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R&B - Released January 1, 2015 | Stax

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Faith & Grace: A Family Journey 1953-1976 isn't career-spanning, as stated by the Concord label. The proof is right there, in the title. Throughout the latter part of the '70s and during the mid-'80s, the Staple Singers recorded strong material for the Warner Bros. and Private I labels. Nonetheless, as of 2015, this box set was easily the most comprehensive Staples anthology. Physical copies consist of four discs, as well as a re-pressing of an early-'50s single, "Faith and Grace" b/w "These Are They," which was produced in a one-time limited edition of 500 copies, sold at Staples performances. That alone is enough to stir the interest of longtime fans. Even without those two songs, Faith & Grace would be almost as close to essential as it gets for a box set. It covers the group's stints with Vee-Jay, United, Riverside, Epic, and Stax, a rich period during which they evolved from an acoustic gospel-folk group that performed in small churches into a genre-crossing main attraction for 110,000 people at the Los Angeles Coliseum (as documented on Wattstax). The selection of highlights is thoughtful, if imperfect. There are '50s A-sides like "It Rained Children" and "I Had a Dream," and the charting '60s cuts "Why? (Am I Treated So Bad)" and "For What It's Worth," the latter of which they made their own as much as anything written by Pops Staples. While the Stax-era material includes the major classics "Respect Yourself," "I'll Take You There," and "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)," there are some peculiar omissions. Neither "This World" nor the Wattstax version of "Oh La De Da" made the cut, even though both were Top Ten R&B hits. The previously unreleased material isn't revelatory, though it's fascinating to hear a demo of Mack Rice and Luther Ingram's "Respect Yourself" fronted aggressively by Rice. Packaged folio style with an abundance of photographs and liner notes, it's a generous overview -- track-selection flaws notwithstanding -- of a crucial 20th century musical institution. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Funk - Released June 10, 2014 | Rhino - Warner Records

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Funk - Released January 1, 1977 | Rhino Atlantic

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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released January 1, 1977 | Epic

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Soul - Released May 21, 1971 | Motown

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Devastated by the death of his partner Tammi Terrell, who died of cancer on 6 March 1970 at the age of just 24, Marvin Gaye withdrew from show business and fell into a deep depression. He threw himself into football and signed with the Detroit Lions. In June of the same year, however, the social and political situation compelled him to return to recording. As America struggled with its own demons, both internal (segregation) and external (Vietnam), he released a masterpiece of conscious soul. With its politically-engaged prose, What's Going On, which was released on 21 May 1971,  shook the Motown label out of its rosy American dream and forced it to confront the realities of the time. But Marvin Gaye, a poet and above all an entertainer, saw to it that his social and political sermon was delivered with a truly unique groove. The album is a masterful symphony, both measured and calculated, in which the string section enchants the rhythm and chorus. But it wasn't easy to lay this cornerstone of Black American music: Berry Gordy, the head of Motown, was worried that this politically-charged project would damage the very positive (perhaps too positive) public image of both his label and his protégé. With What's Going On, Marvin Gaye forced Gordy to face up to the war in Vietnam, interracial tensions and the degradation of great American cities. The success of the record was immediate and hugely impressive, with What's Going On raking in heaps of awards. Perhaps more notable was the fact that this was the first time a Motown record had been produced and designed in this way, without complete control from Gordy. Marvin Gaye went on to sign a new contract with the label, this time for a million dollars, making it the biggest contract ever signed by a black artist at the time. As for What's Going On, it remains one of the greatest albums of the twentieth century. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Soul - Released September 28, 1976 | Motown

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Songs in the Key of Life was Stevie Wonder's longest, most ambitious collection of songs, a two-LP (plus accompanying EP) set that -- just as the title promised -- touched on nearly every issue under the sun, and did it all with ambitious (even for him), wide-ranging arrangements and some of the best performances of Wonder's career. The opening "Love's in Need of Love Today" and "Have a Talk with God" are curiously subdued, but Stevie soon kicks into gear with "Village Ghetto Land," a fierce exposé of ghetto neglect set to a satirical Baroque synthesizer. Hot on its heels comes the torrid fusion jam "Contusion," a big, brassy hit tribute to the recently departed Duke Ellington in "Sir Duke," and (another hit, this one a Grammy winner as well) the bumping poem to his childhood, "I Wish." Though they didn't necessarily appear in order, Songs in the Key of Life contains nearly a full album on love and relationships, along with another full album on issues social and spiritual. Fans of the love album Talking Book can marvel that he sets the bar even higher here, with brilliant material like the tenderly cathartic and gloriously redemptive "Joy Inside My Tears," the two-part, smooth-and-rough "Ordinary Pain," the bitterly ironic "All Day Sucker," or another classic heartbreaker, "Summer Soft." Those inclined toward Stevie Wonder the social-issues artist had quite a few songs to focus on as well: "Black Man" was a Bicentennial school lesson on remembering the vastly different people who helped build America; "Pastime Paradise" examined the plight of those who live in the past and have little hope for the future; "Village Ghetto Land" brought listeners to a nightmare of urban wasteland; and "Saturn" found Stevie questioning his kinship with the rest of humanity and amusingly imagining paradise as a residency on a distant planet. If all this sounds overwhelming, it is; Stevie Wonder had talent to spare during the mid-'70s, and instead of letting the reserve trickle out during the rest of the decade, he let it all go with one massive burst. (His only subsequent record of the '70s was the similarly gargantuan but largely instrumental soundtrack Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.) © John Bush /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 1972 | Motown

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After releasing two "head" records during 1970 and 1971, Stevie Wonder expanded his compositional palette with 1972's Talking Book to include societal ills as well as tender love songs, and so recorded the first smash album of his career. What had been hinted at on the intriguing project Music of My Mind was here focused into a laser beam of tight songwriting, warm electronic arrangements, and ebullient performances -- altogether the most realistic vision of a musical personality ever put to wax, beginning with a disarmingly simple love song, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" (but of course, it's only the composition that's simple). Wonder's not always singing a tender ballad here -- in fact, he flits from contentment to mistrust to promise to heartbreak within the course of the first four tracks -- but he never fails to render each song in the most vivid colors. In stark contrast to his early songs, which were clever but often relied on the Motown template of romantic metaphor, with Talking Book it became clear Wonder was beginning to speak his mind and use his personal history for material (just as Marvin Gaye had with the social protest of 1971's What's Going On). The lyrics became less convoluted, while the emotional power gained in intensity. "You and I" and the glorious closer "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)" subtly illustrate that the conception of love can be stronger than the reality, while "Tuesday Heartbreak" speaks simply but powerfully: "I wanna be with you when the nighttime comes/I wanna be with you till the daytime comes." Ironically, the biggest hit from Talking Book wasn't a love song at all; the funk landmark "Superstition" urges empowerment instead of hopelessness, set to a grooving beat that made it one of the biggest hits of his career. It's followed by "Big Brother," the first of his directly critical songs, excoriating politicians who posture to the underclass in order to gain the only thing they really need: votes. With Talking Book, Wonder also found a proper balance between making an album entirely by himself and benefiting from the talents of others. His wife Syreeta contributed two great lyrics, and Ray Parker, Jr. came by to record a guitar solo that brings together the lengthy jam "Maybe Your Baby." Two more guitar heroes, Jeff Beck and Buzzy Feton, appeared on "Lookin' for Another Pure Love," Beck's solo especially giving voice to the excruciating process of moving on from a broken relationship. Like no other Stevie Wonder LP before it, Talking Book is all of a piece, the first unified statement of his career. It's certainly an exercise in indulgence but, imitating life, it veers breathtakingly from love to heartbreak and back with barely a pause. © John Bush /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 1983 | Motown

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
On Can't Slow Down, his second solo album, Lionel Richie ran with the sound and success of his eponymous debut, creating an album that was designed to be bigger and better. It's entirely possible that he took a cue from Michael Jackson's Thriller, which set out to win over listeners of every corner of the mainstream pop audience, because Richie does a similar thing with Can't Slow Down -- he plays to the MOR adult contemporary audience, to be sure, but he ups the ante on his dance numbers, creating grooves that are funkier, and he even adds a bit of rock with the sleek nocturnal menace of "Running With the Night," one of the best songs here. He doesn't swing for the fences like Michael did in 1982; he makes safe bets, which is more in his character. But safe bets do pay off, and with Can't Slow Down Richie reaped enormous dividends, earning not just his biggest hit, but his best album. He has less compunction about appearing as a pop singer this time around, which gives the preponderance of smooth ballads -- particularly "Penny Lover," "Hello," and the country-ish "Stuck on You" -- conviction, and the dance songs roll smooth and easy, never pushing the beats too hard and relying more on Richie's melodic hooks than the grooves, which is what helped make "All Night Long (All Night)" a massive hit. Indeed, five of these songs (all the aforementioned tunes) were huge hits, and since the record ran only eight songs, that's an astonishing ration. The short running time does suggest the record's main weakness, one that it shares with many early-'80s LPs -- the songs themselves run on a bit too long, padding out the running length of the entire album. This is only a problem on album tracks like "Love Will Find a Way," which are pleasant but a little tedious at their length, but since there are only three songs that aren't hits, it's a minor problem. All the hits showcase Lionel Richie at his best, as does Can't Slow Down as a whole. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul - Released August 28, 1973 | Motown

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Soul - Released July 22, 1974 | Motown

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After the righteous anger and occasional despair of the socially motivated Innervisions, Stevie Wonder returned with a relationship record: Fulfillingness' First Finale. The cover pictures his life as an enormous wheel, part of which he's looking ahead to and part of which he's already completed (the latter with accompanying images of Little Stevie, JFK and MLK, the Motor Town Revue bus, a child with balloons, his familiar Taurus logo, and multiple Grammy awards). The songs and arrangements are the warmest since Talking Book, and Stevie positively caresses his vocals on this set, encompassing the vagaries of love, from dreaming of it ("Creepin'") to being bashful of it ("Too Shy to Say") to knowing when it's over ("It Ain't No Use"). The two big singles are "Boogie on Reggae Woman," with a deep electronic groove balancing organic congas and gospel piano, and "You Haven't Done Nothin'," an acidic dismissal of President Nixon and the Watergate controversy (he'd already written "He's Misstra Know-It-All" on the same topic). As before, Fulfillingness' First Finale is mostly the work of a single man; Stevie invited over just a bare few musicians, and most of those were background vocalists (though of the finest caliber: Minnie Riperton, Paul Anka, Deniece Williams, and the Jackson 5). Also as before, the appearances are perfectly chosen; "Too Shy to Say" can only benefit from the acoustic bass of Motown institution James Jamerson and the heavenly steel guitar of Sneaky Pete Kleinow, while the Jackson 5 provide some righteous amens to Stevie's preaching on "You Haven't Done Nothin'." It's also very refreshing to hear more songs devoted to the many and varied stages of romance, among them "It Ain't No Use," "Too Shy to Say," "Please Don't Go." The only element lacking here, in comparison to the rest of his string of brilliant early-'70s records, is a clear focus; Fulfillingness' First Finale is more a collection of excellent songs than an excellent album. © John Bush /TiVo
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Disco - Released November 1, 1978 | Rhino Atlantic

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Funk - Released August 23, 2013 | Epic - Legacy

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Soul - Released June 24, 2013 | Anti - Epitaph

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Since Rick Rubin quietly reinvented Johnny Cash as a contemporary artist by having him sing works by alternative rock acts over an acoustic guitar on 1994's American Recordings, this has become a standard practice by pairing veterans with hotshot young producers to spark creativity. Listening to One True Vine, Mavis Staples' 2013 solo disc for ANTI- Records (the edgy heritage artists-oriented subsidiary of punk label Epitaph), it sounds more like Staples schooled this project's producer, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy The focal point of gospel/soul greats The Staple Singers (patriarch/band leader Roebuck "Pops" Staples' ultra-expressive guitar playing aside), Mavis has become the standard-bearer of their sound and legacy, one of the richest in American history. It's no wonder this sounds so perfectly of a piece with anything her family released, especially their more gospel-oriented albums, albeit with some musical settings closer to the secular material that made them Seventies hitmakers. The solidity of her belief is audible, as she somehow manages to find the sanctified message within the most earthly of material. Across One True Vine's length and breadth, Staples applies her idiosyncratic touch to copyrights from Low ("Holy Ghost"), Nick Lowe ("Far Celestial Shore"), Funkadelic ("Can You Get To That"), Pops Staples himself ("I Like The Things About Me"), and three of Tweedy's ("Every Step," "Jesus Wept," and the title track), plus three gospel standards. But the tone's set from the get-go, when Staples tacitly reassembles the Low tune in her own image, with a spare, plucked acoustic guitar and a modest choir backing her husky alto. Her intent with Alan Sparhawk's meditation is unambiguous, despite the refrain. Mavis Staples is not singing about "some holy ghost," she's singing about The Holy Ghost. It's both a gift, and an indicator of the depths of her spirituality. © Tim Stegall/Qobuz
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Soul - Released January 1, 1974 | Ace Records

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
When Lonnie Liston Smith left the Miles Davis band in 1974 for a solo career, he was, like so many of his fellow alumni, embarking on a musical odyssey. For a committed fusioneer, he had no idea at the time that he was about to enter an abyss that it would take him the better part of two decades to return from. Looking back upon his catalog from the period, this is the only record that stands out -- not only from his own work, but also from every sense of the word: It is fully a jazz album, and a completely funky soul-jazz disc as well. Of the seven compositions here, six are by Smith, and the lone cover is of the Horace Silver classic, "Peace." The lineup includes bassist Cecil McBee, soprano saxophonist David Hubbard, tenor saxophonist Donald Smith (who doubles on flute), drummer Art Gore, and percussionists Lawrence Killian, Michael Carvin, and Leopoldo. Smith plays both piano and electric keyboards and keeps his compositions on the jazzy side -- breezy, open, and full of groove playing that occasionally falls over to the funk side of the fence. It's obvious, on this album at least, that Smith was not completely comfortable with Miles' reliance on hard rock in his own mix. Summery and loose in feel, airy and free with its in-the-cut beats and stellar piano fills, Expansions prefigures a number of the "smooth jazz" greats here, without the studio slickness and turgid lack of imagination. The disc opens with the title track, with one of two vocals on the LP by Donald Smith (the other is the Silver tune). It's typical "peace and love and we've got to work together" stuff from the mid-'70s, but it's rendered soulfully and deeply without artifice. "Desert Nights" takes a loose Detroit jazz piano groove and layers flute and percussion over the top, making it irresistibly sensual and silky. It's fleshed out to the bursting point with Smith's piano; he plays a lush solo for the bridge and fills it to the brim with luxuriant tones from the middle register. "Summer Days" and "Voodoo Woman" are where the electric keyboards make their first appearance, but only as instruments capable of carrying the groove to the melody quickly, unobtrusively, and with a slinky grace that is infectious. The mixed bag/light-handed approach suits Smith so well here that it's a wonder he tried to hammer home the funk and disco on later releases so relentlessly. The music on Expansions is timeless soul-jazz, perfect in every era. Of all the fusion records of this type released in the mid-'70s, Expansions provided smoother jazzers and electronica's sampling wizards with more material that Smith could ever have anticipated. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Soul - Released April 12, 2013 | Epic - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Indispensable JAZZ NEWS - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue